Monthly Archives: September 2015

Tallinn – Old City

There is an ironic mystery about medieval towns. Ironic, because on the one hand we idealise them but in reality they were dirty and brutal places.  This irony continues today with the old buildings being surrounded by the latest Benz’ and Audis and designer labels.

Despite all this Tallinn is worthy of its World Heritage status if only they could get graffiti taggers to cooperate. The walls, towers, unique buildings plus the fact that parliament and many embassies find their home in the old city make it quite special and tranquil in comparison to many cities. Step outside the walls and one is immediately reminded of a citiy’s usual mayhem.

I particularly love the alleyways. The stones and walls bear the scars of numerous centuries.

The Three Sisters


Katariina Kaik


The Old Wall


Looking down on the old town


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History Doesn’t Make You Nice

The Church on the Spilled Blood is case where the memorial doesn’t match the man. Like many leaders Alexander ll wasn’t the most gracious. Although he had introduced some reforms he also sent thousands into exile in Siberia. It wasn’t an accident that people wanted to throw grenades at him. Alex aside, the memorial to him is a triumph to the art of mosaics. Nearly every surface is covered in stories of biblical events and saints. Both the outside and the inside are highlights.


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Going to Russia

When I was about 12 I was an unstoppable letter writer. I wrote to aircraft companies for pictures of planes but I also wrote to countries asking what it was like to live there. One such letter was sent to the, then, Soviet Union. It obviously ended up on the desk at the tourist bureau because a month or so later I received a pile of travel pamphlets from the Soviet Union. Two items particularly struck me: the Trans Siberia Railroad and, what was then, Leningrad. Well finally I am on my way to to one: St Petersburg. The name change itself reminds us how much the world has changed in those 53 years. 

Thursday 24th of September. Hetty and I are on the Princess Maria waiting to head to Russia!

We have now been in St Petersburg for three days. It is an amazing city of contrasts: wealth and poverty, old Ladas and brand new Range Rovers, smartly dressed people and the poor.

Highlights: the Hermitage Museum, The Peter Paul fortress, the Museum of Political History, the Church on the Spilled Blood and much much more.


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When I woke up this morning …

This morning I woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed at 1:30am. Being awake I did the Facebook thing, contacted nearest and dearest and then forced myself back to sleep. It will take time to get used to this 7 hour time shift.

When I woke up the second time, Hetty and I had breakfast and headed off to a local museum. We followed this with a visit to an intriguing island – Suomenlinna or Sveaborg. It is essentially a giant fortress originally built by the Swedes in the 1700s in their battles with the Russians. From 1808 to 1918 it was under Russian control. In 1918 the Fiins rebelled and took it back. Today it has been decommissioned and the island is a haven for artisans – glass blowers and the like.

The church on the island is particularly interesting as its fence is made of “retired cannons” – a bit like turning swords into ploughshares.

We have finally made some sense of the Helsinki transport system. Not only are the trams painted like Melbournes rattlers their inter city trains are run by VR!

Sibelius is a highly regarded Finnish composer. We were able to get to see his memorial in a park to the north west of the city. When we arrived there was a bus load of Japanese tourists. Note to self, I must learn “All aboard” in Japanese. When they left I was able to get few photos of this fascinating piece of art.


the pipes are meant to resemble organ pipes


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Stay Calm


Our holiday has started … but we are stressed already. Our original flight to Sydney was delayed meaning we would miss all our connecting flights. So we were changed to another Sydney flight. Then at the last moment we were changed to a direct Singapore flight. We had to rush through customs because it was going to leave in 30 minutes. Arriving at the boarding gate, after going to the wrong one, we find our new flight delayed by 2 hours due to a tyre change.

In the whole scheme of things with all the refugees in the world -we can’t complain , and a plane with a better tyre can’t be bad thing.

Later Saturday:

After a 3 hour delay we finally got on our plane and arrived safely in Singapore. The warm fragrant air is striking as the plane doors open. Singapore airport is the revolving door of the world. People from all over the world coming in and going on to their next destination.

Early Sunday Morning:

We are in an aluminium tube travelling at 38,000 feet at about 855 kms per hour over Russia. There are still about 2000 kms and 3 hours to go before we get off in Helsinki.

My body is telling me it is 10:30 in the morning. But the pitch black outside the plane and my weary eyes tells me time has changed.

Once we arrived in foggy Helsinki, being Sunday, we looked for a worship service to attend. A few people had told me about a church built into a rock. So we went there – Temppeliaukio Church, a Lutheran church. We didn’t understand a word but the music was sublime. We took  an order of worship and asked one of the stewards what the Bible passages were. We promised to read them later … in English.


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